I wanted to apply to a Masters of Arts program in Humane Education before I had any undergraduate degrees. I first learned of the Institute for Humane Education at a table at a VegFest in Massachusetts. My associates degree was still in progress at that time.
After graduating from my community college in 2014, I expected it would take me at least another 3 years to transfer and get a bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to get a master’s degree when I graduated high school in 2003. Yet I didn’t finish my bachelor’s degree until 2015!
After I graduated from the Community College of RI, I had some choices to make. I was accepted into a well-known culinary school. It seemed like the obvious choice because of my vegan cooking blog. After registering, I couldn’t shake off the alarms going off in my head telling me not to go . Instead, I found myself at an open house offering non-vegan free pizza, in a building at the MET school, for a program called College Unbound. I immediately felt at home. I applied, enrolled, and started classes. I could make a long story short here, but the story of my time there WAS short.
I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in a YEAR! At age 31! But who the F cares! I made it!
Walking onto the stage during the graduation ceremony with my favorite therapist waiting in the wings to give me my diploma, my college advisor Leann praising me, ugly tears started to fly out of my eyes.
My tears represented the culmination of my struggles, but also pure, unadulterated joy. I never believed I would have a bachelor’s degree. Desperately trying so many times, I always gave up. Grades were not the issue. It was just me and my fear of failure. Me and my self-doubt.
I stepped on to the podium, with the microphone in front of me. I had no plans of what I was going to say (all my classmates did). I tried to wipe my tears away but they were still flowing. The large crowd stared at me, and so did the silent microphone. Suddenly, the crowd began to chant, “Laura! Laura! Laura!” and I began to speak. I can’t remember much of what I said.
Never had I felt so celebrated in my life. Maybe my birth was more celebrated than my graduation, but, I don’t think I have a memory of that. Or do I?
I applied pretty quickly to graduate school after graduating from CU..
After I applied, I started to get some information from Valparaiso University (the school who hosted the humane education program) about mandatory interviews
.While anxious about the future, and my possible acceptance, I took a long, 30-minute drive to Warwick, Rhode Island to get my eyebrows waxed. (Rhode Islanders think any drive over 15 minutes is unacceptably long.)
So here I am, getting my eyebrows done by this lady I had never met, but who thought she had met me before. “Have I told you that I do angel readings for people?” I was like, “W-w-what? No, you didn’t tell me.” “Well,” she said, “You have unicorns surrounding you right now. I’m not sure, but I think unicorns reflect your pure innocence.”
This was before the Millennial Age unicorn craze really kicked off. If only she could have known how these unicorns would influence my life..like…that’s a cliffhanger in itself. But I won’t do that to you here!
Basically, I took this as a giant neon sign that I was on the right path. If I believed in myself, remember that I was gifted, and relaxed, everything was going to be okay. More than okay.
Shortly after the eyebrow lady waxed and trimmed my brows to perfection, I set up my graduate school admissions interview.
I would know,
Whether I was accepted.
The night before my interview with a goddess named Mary Pat. I had a weird and vivid dream:
In a little food market resting on the slope of a hill, I saw a chinchilla running up the hill past the store. Then the chinchilla was hit by a car. When I woke up, I knew this dream had significance for the outcome of the interview. As you might know, I am a fan of dream interpretation, but my usual sources were failing me.
I found this website which explained,
“Seeing a dead chinchilla in a dream implies that you’ll get a rare opportunity to gain what you’re dreaming of. It is a unique one and among thousands of people, only you are [sic] a lucky dog to achieve it. So, be very attentive not to miss it!”
So obviously, I knew my interview with Mary Pat would end with the answer I was looking for:
So, you can’t make this shit up! Of course, I got in!
There was a lot that happened over the course of the two and a half years of studying with IHE (Institute for Humane Education). Some of that you will hear about in later posts.
But the biggest task I faced was to:
No, not whether I was going to register!
It was the decision of what my thesis topic would be, you silly witches!
I wasn’t required to pick a topic until much later in the program. But being the planner and anxietress of the future that I am (anxietress: my made up word that combines empress with anxiety but is somehow not saying it’s a misspelled word?), I was plotting it all from day one.
Here were some of the ideas that I explored:
Making music and illustrations that gave a voice to animals and other natural elements. Like, what would a turtle’s number one hit song be? Just think, you could have been rocking out to a giant rock singing in the ocean while the tides let him play hide and seek. This would’ve been super frustrating because I can’t play any instruments proficiently and my singing voice is worse than Ursula’s before she stole Ariel’s voice.
A writing project about finding happiness and exploring that concept (spoiler alert: you can’t find happiness, and you can’t always be happy)
Compassion fatigue and self-care for activists
Pet therapy a.k.a. an excuse for getting a dog
A community project around building accessible food sources through vegetable farming (yeah right, I can’t even keep my houseplants alive!)
Educating against ableism and for human rights for folks with disabilities
Writing children’s books
Humane life coaching
Humane end of life care, green funerals and alternatives. Becoming an end of life doula or hospice volunteer, as if I wasn’t morbid enough already.
Ultimately, the winning decision was a rainbow-filled, sugary, sparkly, ethical, and vegan cookbook and kid’s party planning book narrated by a unicorn named Justice.
It sounds like a fluffy, B.S. thesis, right? (Fun fact: before my unicorn was named Justice, their name was Fluffy because I wanted to have a body positive unicorn. Turns out there was already a famous unicorn named Fluffy.)
My formal research was on Influencing Ethical Choices in Cooking and Crafting. It was not Fluff. It was 112 pages of beautifully, ethically, extracted unicorn tears.
Despite the beauty behind the official document, I was afraid the thesis committee would reject it for its magical absurdity.
But then this happened:
My parents had decided to help me get to my actual graduation in Indiana. I was very grateful for this experience.
I guess the unicorns really did choose and guide me to get this vision out into the world!
In all honesty, though I may need to do an activist spell to cancel my student debt, I got WAY more than I paid for. From the aesthetician who did my eyebrows, to the people who guided me and counseled me to stay in school at CCRI, to the absolutely supportive and community centered environment at College Unbound, to meeting so many amazing people I still connect with regularly at IHE, I wouldn’t change my educational journey at all.
Special shout outs to: Goddess Mary Pat, High Priestess Zoe, and Magician Kris at IHE. Sir Adam, King Dennis, and Lady Leann, from College Unbound. Queen Billie Jane, Empress Camille N., and Princess Jackie at CCRI. Plus all my classmates and friends I made along the way through this magical journey.
Thank you for all your help and unwavering belief in me, because we all know I struggle with believing in myself sometimes.
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